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Drinking spirits with the spirits

Dark silhouttes of pine trees appear black against the barely visible dim shimmer of the overcast night sky. I lay on my back, staring at the view, and I feel peaceful. In this moment I don't wish to be anywhere else, and I have no thoughts on how I ended up here, nor what should I do next. I just marvel at the way the pine branches curve, I inhale the peace and the silence of nocturnal nature. I feel soft moss under my back, I feel the slight chill of late autumn on my face. Slowly the rational part of my mind steps back into the picture, and I remember; "Ah, I stumbled and fell." I laugh gently, take a couple of deep breaths and get back on my feet. I'm on an island, next to an ancient burial site. So, how did I end up here?

About a month ago I was planning a rowing trip to the nearby islet, the last one for this summer, before the lake freezes. But when I had time for such a journey it was very windy and I felt tired, so I wasn't that inspired to go adventuring. And then the temperatures fell below freezing. I didn't go prepare my boat for the winter as I thought that sure the lake won't freeze yet, warmer temperatures will return, and there will still be time for a late autumn rowing trip. Weeks went by and I didn't have time or inspiration to visit the lake. The temperature rose above freezing, and all the frost and snow thawed away. A friend visited, giving me a small flask of booze. "Oh, thanks! I will drink this with the spirits of the ancestors!" I said.

I had been planning to be away from home for a few days at the end of this week. But I decided to cancel those plans for I realized that I feel strangely exhausted. I felt a growing need of solitude, a growing need of having an adventure alone in the dark. So on Thursday I packed my stuff and headed for the adventure that had been waiting. As I walked down a road it was already so dark that I couldn't see my feet. Instead I had to look up to see where the road is, as the surrounding forest appears all black while the nocturnal sky isn't completely dark. A few times I stepped into a ditch next to the road, and had to realign my sense of where the road actually is. When I got to the boat I used a flashlight to check that everything was OK, safe and ready for the journey.

And off I went - and didn't get farther than a few meters until the boat hit something solid. Ice! There was layer of ice on the bay. So seems like the bay had frozen over when the temperatures were colder, and the warmer period has not yet thawed all of the ice. I thought that sure the main lake will be free of ice, so I need to get there. I hit the ice with a paddle, breaking a hole big enough for the boat. I pushed the boat a bit further, hit the ice and pushed the boat. That way I slowly made my way to ice-free waters. It was almost calm winds and there weren't big waves, so it was easy to row. In the darkness I approximately guessed the direction to the islet and went rowing.

Eventually I found the islet. I dropped my camping equipment on the islet and continued my journey towards an another island where there is an ancient burial site. This autumn the level of water in the lake is lower than usual. Rowing in the darkness I hit some rocks which usually are safely submerged. I found my way around the rocks and reached the shore of the island. I tied the boat to a tree and went looking for the burial site. As I might have said before, I don't believe in the existence of ancestral spirits in the strong literal sense of the word to believe. But I'm some sort of agnostic - admitting that I have no means of knowing the final truth. All in all, I approached the burial site with a sense of respect. The site is nothing but a humble heap of mossy rocks and stones. I kneeled down next to site, greeted the ancestors, opened the flask and poured some booze for them. I took a sip for myself as well. And in my mind I presented a question for the spirits, asking for their help. Something like "oh why do I feel like I'm stuck in this strange sense of being exhausted, and what can I do to overcome it?". Sure, the question is tricky and simple at the same time - obviosly the answer lies in feeling vigorous again; but there is a danger of 'chasing the experience'; the more I try to remember how it felt to be vigorous, the more I'm telling myself that I should be something different. But true inner transformation doesn't seem to happen like that - it is more like a spontaneous process and one has just to surrender to the process, allowing the change to take place. And this is why I seek these not-entirely-rational approaches to deal with my inner issues. Exposing myself to situations which have a potential of deeply touching the subconscious layers of my mind. But enough of the rational analysis, for there I am; kneeled down next to the ancient burial site, pouring spirits for the spirits, taking a sip myself, presenting this question, pouring the booze, sipping the booze, presenting this question, alone in the dark late autumn night. As the process goes on I start to lose my sense of time. There isn't any kind of magical relevation, no definite answer, yet I feel gently guided, like there was an invisible nod to the direction I should go. I'm happy with that kind of answer, I get back on my feet and decide to head back to the boat. It is so dark that I can't see my feet and I stumble and fall down.

I lay on my back, staring at the nocturnal sky. I feel soft moss under my back, I feel the slight chill of late autumn on my face. I laugh gently to myself, get back on my feet and walk softly to the boat. I row to the tiny islet and find the spot where I left my equipment. To make my adventure easier I had brought some dry firewood and kindling with me. I start a fire and roast sausages. I set a camping mattress and a sleeping bag on the ground under an old pine-tree. I put on more clothes and slip into the sleeping bag, quickly falling asleep. I wake up at seven am - it is still dark, for it is still almost two hours to the sunrise. I start a fire and cook some strong black coffee. I heat up canned pea-soup and feel delighted by the warm food. I row back to my home shore, and turn the boat upside down so that it is all set for the winter to come.

Night on the islet.
Night on the islet.
Morning coffee. Shortly after taking this picture I thought that it smells like burning wool. Then I realized that thre is a spark in my beard =)
Morning coffee. Shortly after taking this picture I thought that it smells like burning wool. Then I realized that there is a spark in my beard =)
293 users have voted.


Pyhä Toimitus. ELÄMÄÄ!

Thank you.

Great narrative with powerful imagery - I almost felt like being there with you and the spirits.

Thanks for posting. Dan.

Oh, thanks for the feedback, everyone!


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